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Erin Blakemore

Erin Blakemore is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist Her debut book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf (Harper), won a Colorado Book Award for Nonfiction and has been translated into Italian, Korean and Portuguese. Erin has written about history and culture and other topics for Smithsonian.com, The Washington Post, TIME, mental_floss, NPR’s This I Believe, The Onion, Popular Science, Modern Farmer and other journals. You can find more of her work at erinblakemore.com.

Moscow subway

The Soaring Symbolism of Moscow’s Subways

Lofty ceilings, massive slabs of marble, and colorful mosaics celebrated Soviets in all their incarnations, from military leaders to collective farmers.
Victoria wedding cake

England’s Obsession with Queen Victoria’s Wedding Cake

Queen Victoria's wedding, and its spectacular cake, caused a frenzy.
Red Rose Girls

The Same-Sex Household That Launched 3 Women Artists

The "Red Rose Girls"—Violet Oakley, Jessie Wilcox Smith, and Elizabeth Shippen Green—met at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the 1880s.
Toast and coffee on wooden background,breakfast or meal

The Unbearable Sadness of Toast

One scholar sees the toaster as a symbol of a modernized, industrialized society—the culprit of bread’s mechanization and a perpetrator of assimilation.
Sunbonnet Babies

The Merchandising Whiz Behind the Sunbonnet Babies

In the late 1890s, Bertha Corbett set up her own illustration studio in Minneapolis. Her simple drawing of children in sunbonnets became her ticket to success.
librarian obituaries

Overlooked: How the New York Times Covers Librarians’ Obituaries

In 2004, two researchers analyzed the New York Times obit section between 1977 and 2002 in an attempt to understand how the obituary section portrayed American librarians.
Parlor room

What Ever Happened to the Parlor?

For musicologist Edith Borroff, the parlor was egalitarian, open, and joyful—all qualities she equates with the best musical spirit.
Nuns and cows

How Frontier Nuns Challenged Gender Norms

Scholars Carol K. Coburn and Martha Smith write that nuns were an important part of westward expansion—and in Colorado, nuns quickly learned how to use their gender to their advantage.
portrait of abolitionist James Hinds, 1860s

The White Carpetbagger Who Died Trying to Protect African-Americans’ Civil Rights

James Hinds was assassinated for his beliefs, and today is largely forgotten. He stood up for African-American civil rights during the Reconstruction, provoking the KKK's ire.
Colonial headstone

Funerals Once Included Swag

In eighteenth-century New England, funeral attendees went home with funeral tokens–usually a pair of gloves or a ring that declared their sorrow.
Victorian gloves

What Gloves Meant to the Victorians

According to one historian, the year 1900 was “the zenith of glove-wearing,” when any self-respecting Victorian (British or American) wouldn’t be caught dead without covered hands.
Victorian-era lacemakers

How the Victorians Politicized Lace

The Victorian era involved a lot of lace. In the face of encroaching industrialism, handmade lace enjoyed a frilly revival—and masked fears about the commodification of female labor.
Women moonshiners bootleggers

How Prohibition Encouraged Women to Drink

During Prohibition, American women “made, sold, and drank liquor in unprecedented fashion,” writes historian Mary Murphy.
Candice Bergen Murphy Brown

Murphy Brown, Motherhood, and “Family Values”

Murphy Brown represented a threat to “family values”—a position that inherently placed her on the side of the families of color whose single family structures supposedly threatened the white, middle-class status quo of the 1990s.
18th century hoop skirt

Why Hoop Petticoats Were Scandalous

In the 18th century a new trend in women's underwear sparked public scandal: the hoop petticoat. How the world became obsessed with what was under women’s skirts.
Lady Loinette

The Feminist Evolution of the Iowa Porkettes

In Iowa, between 1964 and 1991, groups of women—the wives of pork farmers—boosted the supposed benefits of pork-heavy diets. They were the Iowa Porkettes.
women in a reading room at Smith College in 1898

The Reading Rooms Designed to Protect Women from “Library Loafers”

In the late 1800s, American women began to move more freely in public. In response, public libraries created sex-segregated reading rooms, intended to keep women in their proper place.
supermarket illustration

Sex and the Supermarket

Supermarkets represented a major innovation in food distribution—a gendered innovation that encouraged women to find sexual pleasure in subordination.
Winter Shack Landscape

A Feminist Reading of The Long Winter

In The Long Winter, often praised as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s greatest novel, the villain may be not the snow, but oppressive gender roles.
Christmas banquet

How Victorians’ Fear of Starvation Created Our Christmas Lore

One scholar sees more in the Christmas food of authors like Charles Dickens—English national identity and class.
Compleat Housewife frontispiece

What Amateur Cookbooks Reveal About History

Remember those spiral-bound cookbooks from your church group or your mom’s favorite charity? Those amateur recipe collections are history books, too.
Monkeys illustration

Early America’s Troubled Relationship With Monkeys

The real and supposed resemblances between humans and non-human primates shaped American conversations about race and society.
Carlisle Indian Industrial School

How Native Americans Taught Both Assimilation and Resistance at Indian Schools

In the nineteenth century, many Native American children attended “Indian schools” designed to blot out Native cultures in favor of Anglo assimilation.
Young Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s Love-Hungry Childhood

Winston Churchill started life as a love-starved child whose lonely childhood set the stage for his almost fanatical need for influence and power.
1949 Little Women

The Grumpiness of Little Women

By focusing in on the characters’ emotions, a scholar discovers something more than good little women. She finds surprisingly angry ones.